Tips for Teaching English in Thailand – Make Your Experience Easier
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Thailand is the go-to spot for a lot of English-speaking slow-travelers looking to indulge in South Asian cultures.
With tourism being the country’s top industry, the need for learning to speak the global language is on the rise and the demand for teachers is bigger than ever!
If you’re thinking about spending some time to soak up the essence of this tropical paradise or even land a long-term visa, then you’re probably considering putting your language skills to use.
So I’ve put together this list to present you with tips for teaching English in Thailand to make your experience easier!
1. Fulfill the Qualification Requirements
The first thing you need to get out of the way is making sure you’re actually eligible for teaching in Thailand. So here are the qualification requirements:
- You hold a 4-year diploma from a university (bachelor’s degree or higher).
Unfortunately, you can’t start teaching English in Thailand without a degree, at least in official schools. If you want to teach English at a university level, you’ll need to have a master’s degree, preferably in Education.
- You’re a native English speaker (NES). If you’re a non-native English speaker (NNES), then you’ll need a TOEIC score of 600+ or an IELTS score of 5+.
- You pass a police background check conducted in your home country.
- You pass a basic health check.
Keep in mind that if you plan to continue teaching in Thailand for more than 2 years (or up to 4 years if you request an extension), you’re going to eventually have to apply for a Teacher’s License, which has its own criteria to fulfill.
Additionally, note that many foreigners in Thailand are still able to teach English despite missing 1 or more of the above conditions. You can also do it and earn money, however, this is considered illegal and you won’t be eligible for a Work Permit or a Non-Immigrant B Teaching Visa.
Do you need a TEFL certification to teach in Thailand?
Contrary to popular assumption, you’re not legally obliged to hold a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification to teach in Thailand.
That being said, a TEFL certification does give a certain edge over other candidates with similar qualifications during job interviews.
Obtaining this certification is also recommended because you’ll receive prior training in lesson planning, class management, as well as basic teaching techniques, so you’ll be better prepared for your upcoming position.
2. Get a Legit Organization to Sort Your PaperWork
A smart move on your side would be applying for teaching through an organized school or program.
Such legitimate establishments will save you the hassle of completing the necessary paperwork for your visa and work permit. This will cost a bit of extra money, but it’ll
allow you to dedicate enough time and effort to the job rather than worrying about official aspects and over-exhausting yourself.
Otherwise, you’ll need to do all the work on your own, which will have you jumping through bureaucratic hoops! So here are some pointers if you decide against applying through an organization:
- Work Permits – The government in Thailand requires a lot of documents to grant you a work permit, including numerous contracts an official papers to be signed by the school’s director. The school won’t prioritize taking care of such business for you.
- Non-B Immigrant Teaching Visa – this one needs an even more complicated process that involves obtaining the visa first then changing it into a work permit.
In any case, you want to avoid working for a school that doesn’t want to give you proper documents and permits, or you can get into some serious trouble.
3. Choose Between Private, Government, or International Schools
After securing a legit organization to apply through, it’s time for you to decide what type of school or institute you want to be teaching at. In Thailand, you can choose between private, government-owned, as well as international schools and institutes.
But what should you base your decision on? Well, I’d say there are 3 main points for you to consider which are: working hours, pay rates, and communication.
- Working Hours – government schools are on the winning side when it comes to working hours and schedules. They generally offer a simple Monday to Friday schedule with little to no obligations to work nights or weekends.
Government schools also give you the chance to celebrate and enjoy all the public and local holidays, so they can be a better choice if you’re more interested in learning about the culture of the country.
On the other hand, private and international schools are likely to require you to work on nights and weekends, especially in language institutes where your students will mostly be working people, business professionals, or students attending after their official work or school hours.
- Pay – this is perhaps the most important aspect for teachers trying to make a decent living abroad. Typically, private schools will offer a bit more pay than government schools and international schools will offer the most.
- Communicating – another aspect you should probably consider is communication.
- For private and international schools, there’s a bigger chance the director will be a native English speaker and the staff will consist of several other ex-pats, so you won’t have trouble communicating with individuals at work.
On the other hand, if you choose a government school, you’ll probably be the only foreigner working there (or one of the very few). Unless you speak Thai, this will make it difficult for you to understand and communicate with colleagues.
Remember, private and international schools are far more competitive than government schools when it comes to qualifications. Applicants with TEFL certifications and lots of experience are typically favored when hiring.
4. Closely Review Your Contract
You made your decision and managed to land a position at a suitable school or institute? Well, before you celebrate and embark on your new journey, take the time to understand exactly what you’re signing up for.
Employers in Thailand will often request that you sign a contract that’s written fully in Thai. Now unless you’re really diligent in this language, you won’t be able to read, much less understand, the conditions printed on the papers.
In such cases, demand an English copy and don’t take no for an answer. This way, you’ll be able to closely study the ins and outs of the contract to know your duties and rights.
If you’re not careful, you may end up obligated to work on weekends at English camps or in your free time preparing students for competitions, unpaid hours of course.
So do yourself a favor and don’t sign anything you don’t understand. This is your livelihood at stake.
5. Know When, Where, and How to Find a Job
To find a teaching job, there are basically 2 options you can try: online application and in-person application.
The best advantage of online application is that you can land a job before you even land in Thailand! (See what I did there?)
You can secure a position right from the comfort of your home without having to dress up and make your way door to door handing out CVs.
You just need a device with internet access so you can search for online job listings and submit your resume/application. Yes, it’s as simple as that.
A fantastic website to help you get started is Ajarn, which is solely dedicated to listing jobs in Thailand.
Applying in-person is exactly what it sounds like; going down there and doing it yourself.
This means you’ll travel to the town where you want to work in Thailand, make a list of schools there, print out a bunch of copies of your resume/CV, dress professionally, and visit each school to inquire about vacancies.
Obviously, this approach isn’t as convenient as applying online when it comes to effort, time, and money. However, it does have a couple of perks.
First of all, many schools (mostly government and private) in Thailand don’t post their available positions online. So you’re starting with an advantage here.
Secondly, your potential boss may be particularly impressed when they see your professional manner, fluent speech, and well-rounded personality. This can also quicken the hiring process.
When Should you Start Applying?
The school year in Thailand starts in early to mid-May and ends in March, while universities and international schools usually begin in August. The best time to apply for a teaching job would be about 1 month before the school year takes off, which is when the majority of hiring happens.
Alternatively, a good time to apply would also be during mid-year breaks in October (government and private schools) and January (universities and international schools).
6. Watch How you Act and Dress
A very important aspect of teaching and living in Thailand is how you conduct yourself. It’s crucial that you give this culture the respect it deserves, so don’t hesitate to ask and learn as much as you can about the acceptable etiquette.
The Teacher’s Council of Thailand actually requests this as a criterion for anyone thinking about taking up a teaching position.
This is because Thai culture is very different from what Westerners are used to, so it’s best to come educated in Thai manners, religion, customs, and monarchy departments to avoid unintentional conflict and establish good relations with students and colleagues.
- Behavior – knowing how to act respectfully is shouldn’t be too tricky once you catch up on Thai traditions and etiquette. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll do something bizarre, but you may not know that a certain action is actually offending.
For example, students and teachers gather every morning to sing the national anthem and raise the flag. If you’re not there or if you show signs of boredom, it’d be considered offensive.
Another offensive act would be putting your feet up on a chair. Yes, that’d be considered rude because Thai people look upon feet as one of the dirtiest parts of a person.
You should also take into account the saying: “We run on Thai time” because, well, you’ll actually be in Thailand where people are never on time. So don’t be too surprised or upset about their lack of punctuality and just embrace it!
- Attire – when in Thailand, you need to dress conservatively. So yea, don’t walk around in short shorts or tight leggings. Jeans, flip flops, and bold shirts are also considered inappropriate classroom attire.
No, you don’t have to dress like a nun, but be smart about your attire. Go for collared long-sleeved or short-sleeved shirts, dark skirts (no shorter than knees) and dress pants, as well as wrinkle-free shirts. Male teachers, in particular, should wear belts.
7. You Don’t Need to Speak Thai
You may not have been expecting this, but you don’t really need to know how to speak or even understand Thai, inside the classroom at least.
In fact, most schools prefer it when their native-speaking English teachers don’t speak Thai. The idea here is to create a fully immersive experience in your classroom so it’ll help the students learn faster.
Ideally, you’ll be teaching pupils with a decent knowledge of the English language from their previous studies over the years, so your role would be to aid them in improving their pronunciation and conversational skills, as well as guiding them in practicing what they already learned. You can complete such tasks without uttering a Thai word.
That being said, learning a few simple words and commands can come in very handy when you’re working with younger students, teaching abstract words, or being unable to use your hands in miming certain concepts.
Recently, more and more foreigners are choosing Thailand as their destination to spend an easy year off (or a couple!) while earning a solid living by teaching English.
The above-mentioned tips for teaching English in Thailand will help you get on the wagon and make the experience both rewarding and enjoyable for yourself as well as your students.